‘Budget’ has always been a dirty word to me. Ever since Barend du Plessis’ days as Minister of Finance, the budget’s only affected me by pushing up the price of my cigarettes.
Our household still doesn’t have a budget. But we’re living far more simply now than before the recession. We think before we buy, and only buy with cash – excellent budgeting advice. Even when we hit the hyperstores, we buy only what’s needed, nothing more.
It’s as if the recession has made us aware of money again, and of what it can buy and what not. But you certainly can’t buy humanity in a store, let alone happiness, recognition and love…
At this stage of my life I also want less and want to live with less. Three years ago, we converted our 450m² house into a guesthouse and if we wanted a roof over our heads, we had only one option: off to the garage. We created such a lovely living space in 21m² that I’d battle to give it up today to move back into the house.
We’re humble again, in 2012. Simple things matter – like your life partner and children, the food you eat, the vegetables in your garden, whether the cat loves you, and what you mean to others.
Still, there are many ways to balance your budget:
Save energy In summer, our forefathers drew the curtains early in the morning; the rooms stayed dark all day and late in the afternoon, when the sun started setting, the curtains and shutters were opened to let cool air flood the house. My Oupa Koot draped wet hessian bags in the attic during February – beneath them the house was deliciously cool.
We do the same today, building our homes in such a way that every window lets in a breeze, regulating the temperature and cooling the air.
Only one light is on at a time in any room, solar power heats our water, and when we switch on the oven we bake everything at once – bread, rusks, biscuits… maybe even a rack of lamb, or just potatoes or sweet potatoes in their jackets.
Save on cleaning agents Buy vinegar and clean your house with that. Dump all that ammonia – vinegar does the same job, as do lemons from your garden, mixed with salt. We do our laundry with those ecofriendly green balls that replace detergents, and water the garden with grey water from the washing machine.
Save fuel I travel at 100km/h on the freeway, listen to the radio and music, and take in my surroundings.
Save on food My bakkie always has a two-litre container of cold water for me to drink, with a couple of rosy-cheeked apples for when I feel peckish. We don’t buy fancy foods – we eat bread with a swipe of Marmite, topped with fried eggs, sliced tomatoes and chopped onion leaves straight from the garden… or mashed potatoes with gently fried wors and a delicious gravy made from the meat’s juices.
We serve our dinner guests homemade bread, a fresh garden salad, and pasta with feta, chopped tomatoes and olives, a dash of fresh lemon juice and freshly ground black pepper.
I often ask people, ‘What do you do to balance your budget?’ And the answer invariably is: ‘We’re eating bread again.’
It’s true. Bread stands out in my childhood memories of night-time: scrumptious thick slices with farm butter and apricot jam. Or cheese and tomatoes in the summer. During winter the fare was biltong, the ever-present Marmite or fish paste, and all-natural peanut butter mixed with apricot jam.
But the biggest treat of all was Saturday night’s braai-roasted sandwiches.
I wouldn’t swap those for the world. You spread butter inside and out, fill the sandwich with sliced onion, tomato and cheese, add black pepper, and top it all with a spoon or two of tomato, pineapple and chilli jam. Then you close it tightly and ceremoniously march it to the fire. High above the coals, you carefully braai it until it starts to look like the bulging cheeks of a chestnut stallion galloping up the dunes of the central Kalahari.
Set the table, light a candle and sit down to your daily bread. Call down a blessing upon the loaf, call it your budget feast, and humbly commemorate your forefathers. Because we continually complain, even though we have much, much more than they ever had in their entire lives.
Translated by Jan Venter